FORMER health secretary Matt Hancock has accused Nicola Sturgeon of “spin” and “confusing” the public during the Covid pandemic.

The former first minister was accused of announcing decisions before agreed times and of trying to beat the UK Government to declaring changes to Covid rules.

Hancock made the claims during his second day of giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, which has also heard evidence from Sturgeon earlier in the year.

Asked about texts between him and officials which showed he was concerned about leaks from Covid meetings and “the Scots” making early announcements, Hancock said: “There were a number of moments when the first minister of Scotland would communicate in a way that was unhelpful and confusing to the public and sometimes would leave a meeting and begin communication of a decision for instance sooner than agreed.

READ MORE: 'Frustrating' Nicola Sturgeon put political angle on Covid rules, Matt Hancock claims

“In contrast to my warmth towards my health counterparts, we then found it much more difficult when decisions went up to first minister level, particularly with Nicola Sturgeon because we would find some kind of spin was put on what was essentially, substantively the same decision.”

He claimed relations with Scotland’s then health secretary Jeane Freeman were better and had “no recollection” of communication plans with her or her officials being “breached”.

Hancock added: “I was in meetings where, instead of a cohesive communication to the UK public about an agreed decision including decisions agreed across all four nations of the UK, there would then be confusing communications, differently put and that undermined the UK response as a whole and it is regrettable.”

He was then questioned on the UK Government’s “failure to distinguish” between the phrases “England, the UK, this country” as well as “using the term British meaning England”.

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

Hancock replied that he would “try not to confuse” those terms, but admitted that he would “use the term ‘this country’ to mean sometimes England, sometimes the UK”.

He added: “In the same way that if you’re Scottish ‘this country’ can mean Scotland and the UK.”

A spokesperson for Sturgeon hit back at Hancock's claims saying she had "communicated openly and frankly with the people of Scotland on a daily basis" during the pandemic. 

The spokesperson said: “There is not a scrap of evidence for Matt Hancock’s claims. He should be taking responsibility for his own decisions – as Nicola will do when she gives evidence to the Inquiry early next year – rather than seeking to blame others.

"Nicola communicated openly and frankly with the people of Scotland on a daily basis.

"It was her duty in the grave situation we faced to take and communicate clearly the decisions necessary to protect the country as far as possible. She was accountable to the Scottish people in discharging that duty, not to Matt Hancock.”

Sturgeon won both praise and criticism for her communication style during Covid.

Her admirers said she presented information more clearly than her UK Government counterparts, but she also faced criticism for her sometimes frosty responses to journalists during televised Covid briefings